A review is given of the conditions associated with peritoneal membrane failure, and the possible causes. Ultrafiltration failure is the most important manifestation. It is mostly associated with high transport rates of low molecular weight solutes suggesting the presence of a large vascular surface area. Enlargement of the peritoneal surface area can be functional (effective surface area: more perfused microvessels) or anatomic (more microvessels). The former is likely to be present in some patients in the beginning of peritoneal dialysis, and also during peritonitis. The latter can develop in long-term peritoneal dialysis.